An open letter to the Board and members of the Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC) and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office:
In my May 30th blog, G-d is Good, (Some) People Not So, I wrote about the accused Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt of the RJC, the now known “Sauna Rabbi,” who the New York Times disclosed about having some unorthodox and usual practices of getting naked with children and young adults.
Yesterday in the New York Times, I read the follow up to the story that Dr. Donald Liss, the Chairman of the Board, overruled the board who demanded that Rabbi Rosenblatt leave the synagogue, and now many of the board members are resigning over this travesty of justice and members are leaving the synagogue to start break-away prayer services.
At the end of my last blog on this subject, I wrote: “One last thing I will say, there are others in that community that were involved.”
One of the others involved, guess who?
Yes, the Chairman of the Board who overruled the community and is protecting Rabbi Rosenblatt.
I grew up in Riverdale from the age of 10 when my family moved from the upper west side of Manhattan. I attended SAR Academy, the local yeshiva. My family had many lovely friends in this community and we attended the RJC where we were members for over 20 years.
Dr. Donald Liss significantly older than myself and my friends growing up frequently invited us to his house in Riverdale to “learn” Torah and for Shabbat meals, although the learning frequently turned into talk and banter and “wrestling.” Dr. Liss, as a doctor of rehabilitative and sports medicine, claimed great interest in my physical fitness as a youth and my practice of martial arts. He started to run and workout with me and my best friend and this at times lead to more “wrestling” matches.
Later Dr. Liss provided me a Summer job in his and his brother’s practice at Englewood Hospital. Dr Liss was quite well off and took advantage of me that my family was less so and I needed a job. He provided me the opportunity to work out there in their “gym” during lunch and then when I would change in the locker room, he would invariably show up to talk with me.
Other times, he invited me to go on vacation with his family to the Poconos to babysit his kids. I remember one particular time, I went running on the trail there, and he came. When we got back to the house we were staying in, he dropped all his clothes in the kitchen area in front of me and his wife and totally nude just started talking.
Other times, when I would work out in my apartment in Riverdale with weights or stretching for karate, even during the day, Dr. Liss would show up. And he would also invite my friend and I to his home to lift weights and more “wrestling”.
As I got older and smarter, I realized Dr. Liss’s behavior was not normal, and his interest in my workout and my Torah learning did not seem innocent any longer. I stopped getting together and taking his phone calls. His calling, hang-ups, and messages increased.
I met Dr. Liss one last time to put an end to his harassment, and I confronted him that I thought despite his being married with kids and his professing of religion that he had abnormal tendencies, and I wanted him to stay away from me. He pretended to be shocked at my allegations as a Jewish man who sat towards the front of the synagogue and was learned.
When I moved to DC, the only contact I had from Dr. Liss was when he tried to friend me on Facebook, which I promptly cut him off.
That Dr. Liss would now protect Rabbi Rosenblatt and overrule the wishes of the Riverdale Jewish Center is a Chillul Hashem and travesty of justice.
Every word in this blog is true, and I hope it helps the community and the victims to get over this tragedy and desecration of G-d. The good people who wish to grow up and pray without unwanted advances of some sick individuals hiding behind many veils of religion and family deserve their community back.